Charles Cole, 61, the gentle giant


Charles Allen Cole, 61, of the Cole family which owned John Cole’s Book Shop - formerly Wisteria Cottage - for many years in La Jolla, died peacefully on Sunday, Sept. 16. He had been battling cancer for more than a year.

Born Aug. 6, 1946 at the original Scripps Hospital on Prospect Street in La Jolla, Charles remained a La Jolla native his entire life. He grew up helping out at his parent’s bookstore.

Cole attended La Jolla Junior High and San Miguel, now part of The Bishop’s School, as well as Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas.

He worked at the family business until it closed in 2005.

Kate Hyett, a friend of the family and former employee at their bookstore, said Charles was dedicated to preserving the legacy of his father, John Cole. “His father and he brought music into the store, which was a craft store,” said Hyett. “In the ‘60s he sold records in the book shop.”

Originally named John Cole’s Book and Craft Shop, the signature La Jolla business was originally located in a two-story home at 7871 Ivanhoe St. The book shop was moved in 1966 to picturesque Wisteria Cottage, which was built by La Jolla’s famed Scripps family in 1898. The cottage, with its broad green lawns on Prospect Street across from La Jolla Rec Center, is in the heart of the community’s cultural district.

Hyett said Charles Cole, like his parents John and Barbara, had an intimate knowledge of the Jewel. “He knew La Jolla very well,” she said, “all the nooks and crannies. He was a La Jolla figure, a wonderful person. He was one of the old-time La Jollans, and could be seen around town everywhere.”

Jan Iverson, an employee at Cole’s Bookstore from 1993 to 1996 now employed with Warwick’s Bookstore, recalls Charles Cole as a person who could be thoughtful and considerate. She added he was passionate about his hobbies and interests. “We were both big Padres fans and it was a great connection, our love of baseball and the Padres in particular,” Iverson said. “He was multi-faceted. He was very passionate about his interests and hobbies. He was a great person to get involved in a conversation with on those subjects. His son, Zachary, is wonderful too, a great guy.”

The Cole family’s physician noted Charles had a special dignity that was inspiring.

Judy Hamer, a longtime neighbor of Cole’s Bookstore, recalls Charles as an individual overflowing with goodwill. “When we first moved here Charles had long hair and a very thick beard and, because of his size, he was a little bit overwhelming to our small children,” said Hamer. “But they realized how incredibly kind, loving and caring he was. We always referred to him as the gentle giant.”

Hamer pointed out Charles Cole had an incredible sense of humor and loved to tease. He also had an affection for animals. “He was always finding some stray cat around the bookstore,” she said. “There was a black one he named Yackety Yack. He used to feed the cats every morning and evening. It was the first thing he did after he opened the bookstore.”

Charles Cole will be remembered for taking photos of all the children on the red rocking horse, and for the beautiful, huge bubbles he made on the lawn of the bookshop for the delight of passers-by.

A great music fan, Charles attended many events, including the famous Monterey Pop Festival with his sister in 1966. He passed his love of music onto his son, Zachary, a harmonica player and music promoter.

His love of sports, especially local teams, earned Charles Cole the nickname “Stat Man.” He played Rotary basketball in junior high and basketball and baseball at San Miguel. In 1973 he coached a La Jolla Little League team with a high school friend.

Loving, thoughtful and curious, Charles enjoyed exploring out-of-the-way places and eateries with his friends and family.

He will be remembered for his great sense of humor and quick wit.

Survivors include his son, Zachary Cole; his sister, Susan Oliver and her husband, Juan Jose Oliver, of Mexico City; his niece, Trilce Oliver and her two children, Jade and Julian of Real de Catorce, Mexico.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to FOCAS. A celebration of life for Charles Cole will be announced soon.